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May 1, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Aurora Dawn-Rose says the concept behind Missouri Heartland Harvest is simple: “People love the farmers market, but not everyone can get there. So we thought, ‘What if the farmer’s market could come to them?’”
Dawn-Rose and her fiancé, Dave Langer, run central Missouri’s only home delivery service for chemical-free produce and groceries. They guarantee food sourced within 100 miles of your front door. Missouri Heartland Harvest lets customers choose which items they want delivered, unlike most community-supported agriculture programs that provide pre-determined boxes of whatever farmers have harvested. Orders are placed through their website, missouriheartlandharvest.com.
Dawn-Rose used to run her own business as a seamstress, and Langer’s background is in ordering produce for health food stores. Now, in the early stages of cultivating their new business, the couple handles every aspect of the operation, including coordinating with farmers, building the website and hand-delivering orders out of their white Ford Taurus.
As they master the system, Dawn-Rose and Langer look expectantly toward expanding the service they offer Columbia’s eco-conscious foodies.
How did you get the idea for Missouri Heartland Harvest?
Dawn-Rose: The actual bones of the idea, the structure, came from seeing an article in Better Homes & Gardens. There was a couple in North Carolina (running one) called Mother Earth Produce. We thought, with our combined backgrounds and interest in healthy, natural, chemical-free food, gardening, earth, living, everything — “Why don’t we try this ourselves?”
Langer: I was a produce buyer at a couple of local health food stores for a couple different seasons, about two years total. And the last one I was at, I got to meet a lot of local growers around this area. They were all sustainable. They were all chemical free. I really enjoyed the relationships I got to build with them. So from that, it gave us the nuts and bolts of what we needed for the business.
What was the biggest challenge with starting a business?
Dawn-Rose: There’s so many things I didn’t anticipate. We’re so do-it-yourself oriented, and we wanted to do this with our own personal money, which is not in great abundance. We thought everyone who heard the idea would immediately order. But it’s a lifestyle shift to go from the grocery store to thinking ahead and having it delivered later. So we’re looking now at finding a good marketing approach. And now we have more product coming in because we needed more product before we could market. So now the spring is here, and we’re ready.
How do vegetables get to customers?
Langer: To give you an example, what we have on our site right now is carrots. They were planted last November — that’s essentially when we started our business. They’ve been in the greenhouse growing all this time, and they just now got harvested. If a customer places an order, say, on Tuesday, we go pick it up Thursday and deliver it Saturday. So at the very most, it’s two days old. It’s not uncommon either for us to pick up an order on a Saturday and deliver it that day.
For someone who is not familiar with the locavore movement, how would you convince them to try it out?
Dawn-Rose: The local economy is boosted when the money stays local. Not that global is not important, but if every local economy were strong, the whole world would be strong. We feel like, “Let’s support ourselves, and it’ll all trickle out.”
Langer: Everybody wins. The grower gets paid. The customer gets what they want. We’re essentially a liaison between the two. It’s about community and building a very strong local economy. And through our business, it all stays local